20 January 2021

Voice recognition in Welsh

When I am doing work, I used three languages. Most of it, of course, happens in English, but I try to do everything I can do like that in Welsh, and I have a few Dutch-speaking colleagues, so if I send them an email, I might very well do that in Dutch. But then my RSI hit. And I had to dictate everything. And all the software I used for that only spoke English out of these three languages. So I suddenly became a monoglot. On my phone, which I use for personal purposes, I just solved that by using recorded messages. The phone doesn't care which language I do that in!

When I write work emails, it's perfectly fine to do that in English if I could have done it in Dutch. But I had a bit of a problem with not using Welsh. I have put so much effort into learning it! And if I have an opportunity of communicating with a student in their native language, I don't want to let it slip! We don't have many Welsh-speaking students, but of the ones we have, quite a few feel quite strongly about their mother tongue. So I am proud to be able to let them though some of their education in Welsh! But now I suddenly couldn't anymore.

Just before I went off on sick leave, my Welsh tutor advised me to contact someone in the Welsh language centre (Canolfan Bedwyr), to see if there were any possibilities for dictating in Welsh. But well, then I went off sick. But I am back!

On Friday I contacted the centre. And within the time, I got a Teams call. I already was in one so I couldn't answer! But later that day I had a chat with their technologies contact. And he told me that indeed the University has software like that! And he showed me where to find it and how to get it installed. All in Welsh, of course. He wasn't native speaker either, and I think he was glad to find another keen learner. And he asked me to give feedback!

When we ended the call it was time to cook some food. And I didn't get around to trying out the software the rest of the day. On Saturday I downloaded the files. It wasn't easy! The firewall of my computer really really didn't like it. I had to overrule a lot of warnings that this software could hurt my computer. But in the end I got it done! But I also wanted to prune my trees and get firewood and talk with a friend and have lunch and go for a run and all that kind of thing, so I didn't try it out. But on Sunday I did!

I'm writing this after only having tried it a little bit, but I already have some impression. It is fairly self-explanatory. It has one big huge disadvantage with respect to Dragon; it doesn't work in real time. You have to say everything you have to say, stop the recording, and only then will it show you what it has made of what you have said. As I don't think it has a correction function, I can imagine it isn't crucial to see what is happening while you speak. It is not as if you can stop where the software went wrong and correct as you go along. But that does mean you can't keep track of you have said. And as the software isn't very sensitive, you have to articulate like the clappers, so you had best know what you will say in advance. That pretty much means writing it down beforehand. That makes it a lot less hands-free than Dragon! But still a lot better than nothing. So I will be using this. I can write emails to Welsh speakers in Welsh, and even provide feedback in Welsh to students. I appreciate nobody has the kind of budget to develop voice recognition software in Welsh as there is available for its English equivalent, so I'll try to just make the most of what this is! And I am sure it is only going to get better!

My first attempt with the new software! Not bad.

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